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Building Smart Cities Leveraging Open Innovation course, led by Professor Solomon Darwin and Ken Singer, officially began on August 27. The course unites bright students from cross-disciplines of UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering and the Haas School of Business. Ultimately, they will create a proposal for Vizag, India, which has been chosen by the Obama Administration to aid its transition as a Smart City. In teams, students will develop smart holistic solutions, ushered through technology and a sustainable business model that addresses a city’s social development, the economic landscape, and environmental sustainability. Their solutions will transform urban cities through six main focuses: energy, food, water, transportation/housing, telecommunications, education/entertainment, and safety & security.  

“By 2030, Indian cities will contribute to more than 70% to the country’s GDP and new employment opportunities.” McKinsey & Company

During the first class, Guest Speaker Aaron Simkins, of Paradigm Mtuity Inc., talked about the need for Smart Cities in India. India is urbanizing at an increasingly fast rate — people living in city dwellings will increase from 340 million (2008) to 590 million by the year 2030 (McKinsey & Company).  Aaron also introduced a CIM (City Infrastructure Management) platform, which combines sensor data from service providers to deliver a holistic view of the city infrastructure. The CIM platform delivers seamless communication between city administrators, citizens, and businesses, in real-time.

“Indian cities are already facing various problems including overcrowding, deteriorating quality of life parameters, and scarcity of resource.”  – ASAPP Conferences

The evening of Thursday, September 3rd rendered yet another exciting day for Engineering and Berkeley Haas students. IBM, a prominent technological leader in this field, shared their knowledge of apps with the class through a presentation and a live demo. Dr. Dima Rekesh, a Distinguished Engineer at IBM Cloud, gave students a hands-on experience on how to create an app and see the visual processes behind it. Nanci Knight, a Cloud Ecosystem Business Development Executive at IBM, expressed how their beloved Cloud Bluemix system is a competitive drive used to churn out big data apps in a quick and easy manner. She also explained how the development of apps aids a Smart City’s own growth and development.

To illustrate her point, let’s first think about the use of apps in our everyday lives. There’s a calendar to keep track of the business of our everyday lives, Google Maps to let us know where we’re going and how long it will take, music and entertainment apps to distract us from the work we’re supposed to be doing- and the list goes on. Similarly, in Vizag, India apps have the ability to connect citizens with resources such as tourists using apps to find the best local destinations and thus stimulate economic growth.

“The power to create world changing apps is now in your hands, and next year when we visit this class “Made with IBM” tools will be even better.” – Dr. Jim Spohrer

Dr. Jim Spohrer, Global Director of IBM’s University Programs, spoke highly of IBM’s pursuits of Open Innovation in the creation of Smart Cities. “Each time we teach students this material, it is easier to build and has more powerful components,” Spohrer explained. He has seen IBM’s app development software innovate and grow throughout the years and likened the process to the kitchen. “First, you get there and start with an omelette and over time you’ve got deluxe cakes!” His key takeaway for the class was “Made by IBM, watch this space,” and rightly so given their constant dedication to innovation and pursuits of developing Smart Cities. By the end of the workshop, students gained a toolset for future smart solutions development and an inspired mind to bring positive change to India.



By Lorja Fogel and Cindy Ma